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Nov. 2000

As the holiday approaches, retailers across the country are finding the cheer to be reduced a few notches from last year.

A volatile economy, interest rates, stock market instability and oil prices are place more than a small damper on the holiday spirit and analyst predict that retail overall will suffer. According to these analysts, however, jewelers will be among those who enjoy the strongest season, relatively.

“We look for the jewelry retailers to outperform relative to apparel,” according to Merrill Lynch’s Mark A. Friedman.

Zale, for example, should post 15% sales increases, thanks to trends like princess cut diamond stud earrings in larger stone sizes.

According to Carl Steidtmann, director & chief retail economist for Pricewaterrhouse Coopers, luxury high end goods will be among the strongest categories of an otherwise bleak 2000 holiday season.

Projections, of course, vary, but analysts are estimating that overall retail sales for the 2000 holiday will increase by less than 3% over last year, when retailers enjoyed a robust 5.5% increase in nominal comparable store sales. Fruition of the estimate would make 2000 the worst season since holiday, 1995.

“It’s going to feel pretty miserable in the retail sector,” Steidtmann said. “Next year will probably be the toughest year retailers will have to face since 1991.”

Jewelers, however, are already sniffing off the negative projections analysts have for retail overall. Category leaders at all ends of the industry—from Zales to Tiffany—are already predicting strong holidays with double-digit sales increases.

Saks and other upscale department stores are also feeling optimistic about the holiday. Along with jewelry and other luxury specialty stores, these retailers will manage to best maintain their buoyancy through the holiday, said Dan Berry, managing director and senior retail analyst at Merrill Lynch.

“These retailers will have the best Christmas, relative to last year,” he said.

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